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Many nursing homes today include mandatory arbitration agreements in admission documents.  Nursing home residents entering the facility and/or their caregivers often sign every document during the admission procedure without reading or becoming aware of the content.  These agreements can limit or eliminate the family’s right to sue in the event of nursing home abuse or neglect.

If an arbitration agreement is signed, the resident and/or family agrees to arbitrate in the event of a problem, such as a loved one’s personal injury from nursing home abuse or neglect, rather than file suit.  Consumer advocates agree that arbitration of such disputes is generally not in the families’ best interests.

When a dispute is arbitrated, the patient or family usually has to retain an attorney and pay a portion of the arbitration fee, often amounting to hundreds of dollars per hour.  Unlike court proceedings where a court reporter records hearings and trials, arbitrations are conducted privately and the proceedings are often protected by confidentiality.

A study of 1,449 claims involving nursing home abuse between 2003 and 2011 found that no money was awarded in 30% of the claims resolved through arbitration, compared to 19% of claims where there was no arbitration agreement or the agreement was found to be unenforceable.  The same research found that in 12% of claims without arbitration agreements, awards exceeded $250,000, compared to 8.5% of claims where there was an arbitration agreement.

To avoid forced arbitration, experts recommend that consumers simply do not sign any arbitration agreement.  According to Greg Crist, spokesman for the American Health Care Association, such an agreement should not be “a condition of admission to the facilility.”

For more information, contact the nursing home abuse lawyers at Clark, Perdue & List. 

Source: NBC News, Vitals, “You may be signing away your right to sue the nursing home,” Michelle Andrews, September 18, 2012.